Monday, February 18, 2019

How I'm Surprised by Turning 30

I'm turning 30 this week and it is unexpectedly emotional.

Not that I consider "30" old. I don't like categorizing any age as "old." God created every stage of life with a purpose. Each new year brings new experiences of life, which should ideally bring maturity and a greater ability to live at ease with who one is.

Good mindset, right? Except I'm finding there are still a lot of emotions involved with a big benchmark year that I have to process. It's taken me by surprise because I've really achieved so much at this point in my life. I've told myself for years that I wasn't going to make a big deal about turning 30. I don't have 'regrets' about my 20's, but I do feel nostalgic. The 20's are the years I learned who I am, when I met some really big goals, when I made some really special friendships, when I found and married my husband, when I got my first house, when I started my costuming business, and when I published my first book.

My 20's were also incredibly hard. Heartbreak, health issues, financial strain, spiritual searching and growth, relationships changing, infertility, closing down my costume business, and losing some big dreams that not only didn't happen, but which I have come to accept are unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Turning 30. This is the year I get to see my daughter's face. I'm 30 weeks pregnant now. Just about two months to go. I'm so excited, and yet every day there is a new reminder that my 30's are going to look entirely different than my 20's. Motherhood is coming, and while I am beyond thrilled, excited, and at peace about it, it is still a big change and I struggle with change even while I love it. (Ah, the joys of being an ENFP with Aspergers!)

So then I think: turning 30 is emotional not because of the number, but because the number represents a milestone. A finish line to one part of life, a starting line to another. To some people these lines are less clear. To me, because it aligns so perfectly with this period of transition in my life, the lines are glaringly neon.

But with age comes loss, I can't sugarcoat or ignore that. As a Christian, I try to have the mindset that age is not about losing life here, but getting closer to the real life that is coming. That said, there is real, tangible loss that comes with age. Loved ones get older. You lose them. You come closer to losing them. Mentally. Physically. Loss is coming. Even if that loss is only temporary, and you look forward to eternity together, there are years approaching that are going to be harder because loved ones will not be there.

And too, there is the loss of health and mobility. We don't think about that so much at 30, but it's another real thing that some of us fear. I have the blessing of seeing many of my relatives healthier in their middle life than in their early life, so, with my own history, I don't fear that as much as is typical. But it's a truth I would be wrong to ignore.

30 is just a number. It's just a marker of a passage of time. There is nothing magical about it. There is nothing I can do to put it off, or make it come faster.

But age has meaning, and age is represented by numbers. And it brings real apprehension, turmoil, and transition that need to be processed. I've been trying to pretend that I was unphased by switching from 29 to 30, but I was fooling myself. This exact number probably has more poignancy overall because of how standard American culture treats it, but whatever the cause, the effect is certainly there for myself.

I'm not entirely okay with this revelation. After all, last year I cried when I turned 29 and wasn't yet pregnant. This year, even though the actual number change is considered more significant, I am filled with the overwhelming blessing of feeling my daughter move every day. I thought I had nothing to mourn about this year. But I guess, even when not mourning, transitions still need to be acknowledged and processed. I hope that by sharing this post I may help someone else come to a new understanding of why a certain birthday is particularly upsetting and begin to work through those emotions (whether they are the same or different from mine).

Whether 30 or any other year, if you are a friend who I have not supported well in bridging a major birthday milestone, I apologize. The landmarks line up differently for everyone, and I have a new understanding and appreciation for the emotional transition. I'll count it as one of those experiences I praised in the second paragraph, and hope I can do a better job of providing sympathy the next time someone laments about an upcoming age change.